30 years ago, when I and all of my friends were about to pass our Abitur, my friend Katja was about to pass her baccalauréat. I was green with envy. First of all, baccalauréat – or the bac, as the French say – sounds so much better than Abitur, and then, much more importantly, ever so more importantly she went to school in Paris. I still think life is unfair. But to be fair myself, this unfairness offered the opportunity to visit her there, during all those holidays you have at this time in life, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost holidays, summer, autumn and winter vacations, plenty of time to visit her and prolong the visit with a so-called feverish infection (in winter) or food poisoning (in summer).
Her school, the Collège Sainte-Barbe on rue Valette, was very old, very beautiful and very close to the Panthéon, actually just next to it. This year, at the age of 48, thirty years later as I said, when having coffee in a café next to the Panthéon, one of my favourite sites in Paris, I took a moment to travel back in time. Nothing has changed. Everything looks the same. Everything but me.